Golf course architect Jim Blaukovitich makes his mark on the Keystone State
QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - Since 1990, no architect has designed more public golf courses in Eastern Pennsylvania than Jim Blaukovitch. From the Scranton area to Philadelphia, Blaukovitch has left his mark on the land and made a name for himself in the golf community. When Riverview Country Club opens this summer in Easton, it will be his ninth 18-hole design in the Keystone State.
"It was more coincidence than any grand plan," Blaukovitch explains. "I had been working in the Midwest when I decided to start my own company. I moved back to Pennsylvania, since this is where I'm from, and it's just worked out that there were sufficient projects to keep me busy within the state." (He has designed one 18-hole course in New Jersey.)
Blaukovitch grew up in Northampton, Pa., and graduated from Penn State. His first solo project was Stone Hedge Country Club about 20 miles northwest of Scranton. Opened in 1991, it is rated 4-stars by Golf Digest's "Places to Play."
The Blaukovitch trademark is playability. "I try to build courses that don't beat you up," Blaukovitch says. "They should be challenging and aesthetically pleasing, but I attempt to build courses that will keep people coming back. I don't do real high-end projects; the courses tend to be affordable and I want folks to come back again and again."
But the architect also knows he must challenge low handicappers. "They get moved back on the tee box and I try to use bunkering or other hazards to force them to be more precise with their shotmaking."
Among Blaukovitch's greatest challenges was converting an old industrial site in Philadelphia into a golf course. "I found that very exciting, because we had to completely transform the location," says Blaukovitch, "You really need to tap into your imagination to see the potential of the property and I think it turned out pretty well." The result was Island Green Country Club. It became the first public course to open within the city limits in the past 50 years.
So does that make Island Green his favorite? "I couldn't pick a favorite. Each course is different. They all have things I like; some have things I might change if circumstances had been different. Every project is unique and you've got to make concessions to budget, the site, environmental regulations and other factors. If you do your work, your best effort, you can be satisfied with all of them." However, Blaukovitch does admit to having a soft spot for Stone Hedge as his first.
For those who love the game of golf, designing courses seems like a dream job. Blaukovitch admits it's not a bad gig, "I love the job. I run a small company (himself, his son and a part timer) so I'm very hands on. There is nothing better than going out to a property and walking the land. I look for spots that will lend themselves to golf holes. I like courses that look like they have come right out of the ground. I don't want to move any more dirt than I have to."
Blaukovitch doesn't shy away from feedback. He admits to grabbing a beverage and sitting around the clubhouse of one of his courses to hear what the players are saying. "I'll take the good with the bad, because I feel I can learn something," he says. "I'll play with friends and they give me feedback. They let me know what they think and aren't afraid to criticize a hole they don't like."
For Blaukovitch the bottom line is a happy customer. "I want golfers to enjoy their day on the course. When they are taking their shoes off in the parking lot, I want them to be talking about how much fun they had, the company they shared, and their plans to comeback to that course."
For more than a dozen years Jim Blaukovitch has been churning out courses in Eastern Pennsylvania that have fostered thousands of those kinds of conversations from Philadelphia north to the New York State line.
Pennsylvania golf courses designed by Jim Blaukovitch:
- Riverview Country Club in Easton
- Bella Vista Golf Club in Gilberstville
- Golden Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood
- Honeybrook Golf Club in Honey Brook
- Island Green Country Club in Philadelphia
- Olde Homestead Golf Club in New Tripoli
- Southmoore Golf Course in Bath
- Stone Hedge Country Club in Tunkhannock
- Whitetail Golf Club in Bath
May 3, 2004